pain relief
by t. zoEy benally

wrongly i assumed i had outgrown this tendancy
odd mannerism, funny twitch, silly fidget
mistakenly thought this suicidal cowlick
had finally straightened and my hair hung
minus that odd flip on the right lower edge

yet here i sit again, staring into the blankroom
devoid of the usual landmarks--lightswitches
wall outlets, shelves--nothing but invisible walls
smoothed out of existance with white plaster
gesso-ed, waiting, for my painting of the unknown

this weakness, this flaw, this dent in my soul
everyone thinks it's for attention, to control
they just can't see the nightmare parched fields
infested by tan armored grasshoppers, spitting
fear tobacco, preparing to blend in with dirt

if these tires could just survive this pothole
drive on into the next town, where i'm sure
there's a gas station, squeegie in blue window cleaner
glass coolers of fizzy soda, and a telephone
where i could call and you'd tell me it'll be okay


not long enough for always, too short for never
by t. zoEy benally

"always and never are not true"
i read that on a sheet of paper while cleaning today
more potential wealth unearthed
from stacks and piles, what would have been trees

always is not fair and neither is never
i wonder about words that rhyme with never
ever, that could still be a lie when teamed with "not"
virtually banged out onto a flattened tree knot
print strikes replaced by tapping plastic keyboards

always and never make me laugh
i read about dinosaur extinction hypotheses
it's easier to have potential wealth in cyberspace
but soon, all those yes and no answers will catch up
balances will tip, and dino-influenza will become our extinction level event

when always and never finally happens
cockroaches seventy times seventy generations will excavate, mine
our trash time capsules, ponder our fate, and laugh
at our always and nevers, mere shivers in the sun's
hydrogen nuclei into helium nucleus barbecue cook-off
what do humans know about always and never?


insomniac cafe
by t. zoEy benally

it's 1AM, we have just opened our doors for business
at the insomniac cafe, square lights, squinty red or mint gel blue
the pressurized, static hum of neon tubes -- absent
not even the heartbeat cluck of a mechanical wind up clock
cool handed LED, LCD deftly push out corners, collapse
squares, change zeros into ones, twos, three minutes of not asleep

everyone at the insomniac cafe feels the burning optic nerve tug
cold fingers and toes, stuttered inhalations that refuse to fall
into teeter totter patterns, squeaky chain pendulum swing
of bright playgrounds, arc of sand kicked away, kicked away
everyone has the recent memory of escape from water torture
twisted blankets, gritty sheets, head aching from lying alone

all the tables at the insomnia cafe are 22-inches in diameter
they are all 32-inches high, and have soothed many a weary
cheek, forehead, laid upon this tranquil metal palm
most patrons sit alone, ears jaded by even lung action song
sonorous snore pudding, slow drip of drool from lax jaws, dry lips
they lean back, legs thrown out or maybe folded into X-s and T-s

insomniac cafe's ceiling is the ballroom dome of dark violet night
Orion is my favorite dancer, i run my fingers over starry nubs
of his belt, i am Artemis, intrigued by his movements, await his return
sipping warm tea, stirring already dissolved sugar, adding cream
golden pekoe, vanilla eddies swirl around a long, thin spoon
tinny clinks of silver against ceramic would cross oceans of tea

the light bulbs at the insomniac cafe are intentionally incandescent
shadows honored, unblurred, tethered to each of Thomas Edison's suns
the wood floors are polished and waxed, foot falls squeak and tap
jangled nerve feathers can be smoothed, by water from steel faucets
delivered in robust, unaerated streams, warm if goose bumps are your demon
icy cold if nausea, sticky hands, and a burning brain plague you

small corners are available, should you be released from insomnia's
sinewy talons, corners with curved velvet couches, burgundy or forest green
static free angora blankets to curl around, edged with thick satin borders
dark back bench seats of cars parked, abandoned, that you can stretch out on
malleable pillows, filled with buckwheat hulls, or yawn free down
ready for you, to relax, release and slide into sleep's tenuous embrace.


grocery shopping in Shiprock
by t. zoEy benally

bread, baah, pan, what else is it called?
the need for slices, canvas for peanut butter,
jam--sans the high fructose--that's another aisle
rice paper lantern wonder bread
tipped, emblazoned with golden kanji symbols
primary color splashed bag, marshmallow puffed
kindergarten nostalgia, but dad always said, "...brown bread."
fierce Roman meal, luscious Sara Lee
a bag of wheat bread tumbles into the cart
remembering all the bumps, saving them for a sandwich later

ignore the donuts, ignore the butter, margarine
margins of lard, grease and trans-fatty-acids
but that cheese sure looks good, no, not the
computer generated, laser printed processed cheez
thick, cow jumping over the moon cheese
beyond commodity cheese, approved Navajo Nation
WIC cheese, good for little kids and breast-feeding moms
get a brick of that, wire sliced strips, slightly sour
could you call it harvest gold? or maybe smiley face yellow
nuke it in the microwave until it melts, oozes across tortillas

milk is next, my son said that lactose-intolerants
are not made, they are born, he read that somewhere
avoid the yellow highlighted cartons, warning, impending doom
calcium enriched milk--just like bees, wasps, poison plants
ultra-nauseating in the morning, cereal becomes chalky
thick, like that spoonful of breakfast before you realize
the milk is sour, you have no tuffet, but are munching curds & whey
yogurt is fun to look at, but carries lots of guilt and shame
French voices proclaiming their serving are smaller, obese Americans
ground up mother bugs providing crimson tint, to match place mats
i presume, and then there's that high fructose corn syrup issue

ignore the sandwich meat, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni
curve back towards the bread, but not quite...
slip into the cereal aisle, all the best stuff is at the bottom
i resist the urge to shop for toys and candy
disillusioned by granola myths, and 1950's healthy bales
images of women strapped into fat shaking devices
a box of fruity pebbles to get me through tough days ahead
ignore the pseudo juices, hiss and spit at the word "concentrate"
hallelujah--peanut butter and--no not jelly--jam
i scan labels for the twin demons, evil duo, dark nemeses
trans-fatty acids & high fructose corn syrup

tin can troops line the next aisle, more guilt and worry
it won't biodegrade, how much energy is used to make that can?
how much salt? how much sugar? is it dented? botulism swollen?
industrial revolution technology, nudging us away
from enteric disease--my brother-in-law said that in China
they consider diarrhea the norm & people with solid feces are ill
shoving us towards resource depletion, pollution, trash mountains
remember Nali's wood floor patched with can tops nailed
over fallen out knot holes, the rusty can at grandma's house
top partially opened, metal circle curled into a handle

skewed fats, hydrogen atoms at odd angles, jaunty hats
thrown out hips, hydrogen hookers hanging out under dim streetlights
food victims of a capitalist society, engineered to taste better longer
i walk through the cracker red light district, mutated fats and oils
hold up signs, profess to be the second coming
whisper lies into my ears, "we're not like saturated fat, we're good for you."
"now why would we hurt you? we care about you!"
"less hydrogens, more double bonds." fail to tell you that
reconfigured carbon double bonds curl noodles
into spirochetes, Frankenstein heart worms for humans

soda pop is next with all it's carbonation joys and phosphoric acid burns
but that's a whole poem unto itself, let's roll on into the baking aisle
the wall of bluebird flour, did they know about blue birds & Navajos?
is the flour really better for tortillas & frybread, or is it just effective marketing?
BIA sized food isle-bah, number 10 size cans of green bean torture
WD-40, motor oil, then the wall of SPAM--eyes forward, keep moving!
frozen food aisle, frozen veggies cornered by frozen pizza and desserts
my eyes glaze as i meander past Sudafed, tampons, i bypass the baby aisle
grab a pack of toilet paper, roll of paper towels--select a size is my favorite
by pass the dog and cat food aisle--dog's been gone for a year now

i have finally reached the store back corner, produce penitentiary
unenthusiastic, leafy greens bide their time, await blackened edges,
cellulose weakening, leaking water, and eventual demise, mass landfill grave
potato piles, pass themselves off as vegetables to uncles and aunts
trying to be healthy, green chili is a dark green vegetable isn't it?
scentless tomatoes perch on little hill sides, i can almost taste their grainy
texture, something i don't remember from childhood, something
i think fat green tomato worms would object to, alter the ecosystem
in protest over, i push the items i have gathered, move like a knight
along tiled floors polished, two forward & one across, to check out.